MERCED — Vidhi Karanath, a high school senior from San Jose, arrived in Merced with her father Monday morning on the last leg of a weeklong tour of college campuses.
Merced made the travel itinerary because it was handy, father and daughter said.
"I just like the UC system and this is close to home," Vidhi said before embarking on an hourlong tour of campus.
The Karanaths represent one small portion of visitors to UC Merced since Sept. 1.
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"We're getting lots of interest. And we're actually drawing a fair number of prospective students through the county and the city," said Kevin Browne, assistant vice chancellor of enrollment management.
The number of visitors — more than 22,000, Browne said — rounds out to eight per student enrolled last academic year. That doesn't include 12,000 visitors for first lady Michelle Obama's commencement address in May.
Browne said the numbers are an economic boon to the area, with prospective students and parents asking about restaurants, hotels and places to live.
Karen Baker, director of the city's visitors service, said her office has seen a lot of interest from UC visitors.
"When they are interested in UC Merced, we encourage them to visit all of our area attractions, to look at our whole area, see what we have to offer and fall in love with the community," she said.
And while the city encourages visitors to head out to the campus, UC Merced reciprocates.
"We're trying to tell folks what else there is to do in Merced that day," Browne said. "Our goal is for students to figure out whether they will be happy in Merced."
Vidhi said the tour encouraged her to apply.
"When we first arrived I thought, 'This is in the middle of nowhere,' " she said. "But now I like the campus. It is very nice, new."